Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip’ Brave’ Davis is absolutely right; this is a ‘garbage juice’ campaign season. But who, exactly, is trashing the place?
Over the past few weeks, Bahamians have been bombarded and harassed on our preferred digital ‘social’ spaces by algorithms and geo-trackers salivating to feed us FNM and PLP political ads.
On Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, we get stalked for a view, a ‘like,’ or even a lousy click. Comments – negative or positive – are like gold to merchants of misinformation because they help feed the algorithms in return.
The ‘word on the street’ is there are foreign political operatives in our midst – working for the major parties- responsible for the vomit now spewing on our virtual Bahamaland. That’s really not hard to believe. The truth is, they are always here. Every election cycle. But make no mistake, not all of them are sneaky ‘bad actors.’ Most arrive with glad invitations, and leave with hefty cheques. That makes their actions state-sponsored subversion.
Still, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of Bahamians partaking in political mudslinging. We know Bahamians don’t hold back when it’s time to defend ‘our party.’ For our favourite colour, we can sling with the best. But truly, this year is extra nasty, grimy, and low-down dirty. Just think, it’s not even (technically) an election year yet.
“Most arrive with glad invitations, and leave with hefty cheques. That makes their actions state-sponsored subversion.”
So how did we get here?
Top of mind, those 2012 ‘Murder Count Billboards’ were a turning point. That year, the Progressive Liberal Party decided that putting our societal failings on display for all the world to see was both prudent and proper. Bahamians complained, and tourists complained. But the PLP defended ‘the truth’ and pressed on.
They won the election that year.
Nine years later, it’s ironic to see the two loudest defenders of that shameful political season play possum now. Brave Davis recently wrote to Facebook asking the social media giant to step in and silence unverified online accounts attacking his party.
Fred Mitchell, the PLP chairman, likes repeating the phrase ‘garbage juice’ in vitriol-filled voice notes attacking others. It’s like saying, “I can kick you, but you can’t slap me.”
This posture is why it is hard to take them seriously on this issue. The two leaders’ concern for our ‘democracy’ does not come across as genuine.
Most Bahamians would agree that voicing concern about protecting our electoral process is the right message, but Davis and Mitchell are certainly the wrong messengers.
One way to end this manipulative social media madness would be for both sides (FNM and PLP) to agree to refrain from negative ads. Then, they should work together to pass campaign finance reform laws, and fire any foreign ‘consultants’ either may have on their payrolls. Sadly, we know that won’t happen.
So we have to do the job.
We as citizens and voters must practice discernment and engage in critical thinking when it comes to ‘silly season.’ We have to insist on seeing policy on paper, not propaganda on top of promises.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Mitchell are receiving scorn for talking about ‘garbage juice’ ads for the same reason Prime Minister Minnis gets scorn when he talks about ‘fake news’: It’s beyond ridiculous to raise a secret love-child on junk food, then act surprised when gluttonous grandkids are at your door.
Without a doubt, a ‘clean election’ is an awesome message, but politicians with unclean hands make for awful messengers.